We all love our pets but it is important when owning a pet that we are both responsible and aware of the repercussions if that pet injures someone in a public place. The Domestic Animals Act 1994 outlines the provisions surrounding a person being injured as a result of your dog attacking them. If a dog attacks or bites a person or animal, the person who is in control of the dog at the time (whether or not the owner of the dog) and/or the owner, is guilty of an offence. The penalty for such an offence varies depending on the type of dog, type of attack and the level of harm caused. For the purpose of understanding the ramifications of a dog attack, a single penalty unit in Victoria from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 is $165.22.
Repercussions of a dog attack
If a dog falls within the category of “dangerous dog” or “restricted breed dog”, and they attack or bite a person or animal, the person in control of the dog at the time, may be liable for a term of imprisonment of no more than 6 months or a fine not exceeding 120 penalty units. If the person in control of the dog at the time was not the owner, the owner is still guilty of an offence and may be liable for the same penalty as the person who was in control of the dog at the time of incident. For the purpose of the act, a dangerous dog is defined as a dog that at any time has been kept as a guard dog on a non-residential premises, or a dog that at any time has been trained to attack or bite a person or thing. A restricted breed dog includes the following:
- Japanese Tosa;
- fila Brasileiro;
- dogo Argentino;
- Perro de Presa Canario (or Presa Canario);
- American Pit Bull Terrier (or Pit Bull Terrier).
If a dog attacks or bites a person or animal causing death or serious injury and they are neither categorised as a dangerous dog or restricted breed dog, the person in apparent control at the time, may be liable to a penalty of no more than 40 penalty units. The owner may also be liable to the same penalty.
If a dog attacks or bites a person or animal causing injury (that is not considered serious) and they are neither categorised as a dangerous dog or restricted breed dog, the person in apparent control at the time may be liable to a penalty of no more than 10 penalty units. The owner may also be liable to the same penalty.
If a dog rushes at or chases a person, the person who is responsible for the dog at the time may be liable to a penalty of no more the 4 penalty units. The owner may also be liable to the same penalty. The definition of “rushing” in relation to a dog, is to approach a person to a distance of less than 3 metres in a menacing manner, displaying aggression – for example, snarling, growling and/or raised hackles.
The most severe penalty for your dog attacking a person is governed by the Crimes Act 1958. If your dog attacks a person, endangering their life or causing death, you (the owner) or the person in charge of your dog at the time, may be guilty of an indictable offence and be liable for a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.
Seeking legal advice
If your dog has attacked a person or animal, it is crucial to seek legal advice immediately. Being guilty of an offence, particularly if it involves a term of imprisonment, can result in a number of negative implication in everyday life. Some penalties may negatively affect your employment and even prevent you from working in your chosen field – such as law, teaching, real estate etc.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information only and is not intended to be a substitute for obtaining legal advice.